Greek police arrested six alleged migrant traffickers and are looking for seven others from the same gang. Meanwhile, the Istanbul Turkish police have detained five smugglers and 262 irregular migrants.
Greek police have arrested six people who they say are members of a large human trafficking gang that violently extorted money from migrants to assist them in crossing into neighboring Albania and travel to northern EU countries.
The six suspects — a Syrian, a Palestinian and four Iraqis — were arrested Saturday in a village less than 10 kilometers from the Albanian border, police said Sunday.
Seven members of the gang were arrested in the same area on September 28. At that time, 11 migrants had been found detained in shacks and abandoned military outposts.
The Greek police said in September that the traffickers collected upwards of 1,000 euros (nearly $1,100) from each of the migrants to help them cross into Albania. Then they detained them, demanding an additional 1,500 euros ($1,640).
According to police, the traffickers videotaped themselves torturing the migrants and sent the footage to the victims’ relatives in the Middle East and South Asia.
This time, no migrants were found with the traffickers.
Police say they are searching for seven other members of the gang still at large.
Turkey detains 262 irregular migrants
The Turkish paper Hürriyet Daily News reported that police in Istanbul apprehended 262 irregular migrants who were being held at various addresses by human traffickers in preparation for their journey to Europe.
As part of a large scale operation, Istanbul’s anti-migration police units identified 10 locations in the Sultangazi district, where migrants were reportedly being held in inhumane conditions.
The migrants were detained in a number of raids before being transferred to deportation centers for processing. Five human traffickers were also detained and face a total fine of 270,000 Turkish liras (8,534 euros).
Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide, with around 4.6 million registered refugees currently residing in the country.
The ‘Istanbul model’ against irregular migration
Turkey has implemented the “Istanbul model” in an attempt to curb irregular migration. The model focuses on identifying and verifying the identity of suspected irregular migrants.
Istanbul is a popular destination for undocumented migrants, who either work and live there or are looking to contact migrant smugglers to make their way to Europe via the Greek or Bulgarian border.
Under the “Istanbul model”, law enforcement units scrutinize individuals and, if necessary, they can request detailed information from “mobile migration points.” These migration points use a fingerprint database to check the identity of suspected undocumented migrants and cuts the red tape for registered refugees and migrants with residence permits who often have to prove that they have the necessary paperwork by visiting police stations.
So far 38 points have been set up in the city. Similar points have been introduced in Adana, Ankara, Bursa and Izmir.
Atilla Toros, head of the Turkish Directorate of Migration, announced that the initiative will be extended to all provinces from December 2023.
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Impact of EU migration policies on smuggling
At the Schengen Council meeting in mid-October EU ministers responsible for Justice and Home Affairs met in Luxembourg to discuss how to address the issue of migrant smuggling in the EU and decide on “actions, commitments and sustainable solutions.”
In their draft paper, the Spanish Council Presidency noted that crimes involving human trafficking and exploitation “remain at critically high threat levels, having an increasingly severe impact on vulnerable persons” including children.
Migration policy experts and even the EU agencies themselves have previously noted that stricter border controls do not effectively curb irregular migration. Instead, they tend to lead to smugglers charging more money for access to increasingly dangerous routes.